The topic I have chosen for this term paper is "Ex-Soviet Bloc's Environmental Crisis, Issue C. #2 Upgrading nuclear reactors to meet international standards. I have chosen this topic because nuclear power is not only an environmental issue but also a severe health issue for the citizens around the nuclear site and also for the rest of the country and world because of food products that could be grown there and used as market items.
Nuclear radiation is in no way healthy to anyone. It is much more easier to develop a life threatening disease if you are currently being effected by the radiation or have already been effected. Becoming sick from high amounts of radiation does not only happen to people in the immediate area of the nuclear accident. Although these people are the most effected, they are by far not the only ones. Radiation can be carried in many products, including food which is the most common and easy way to become sick from radiation poisoning. Cattle in the area of radiation may appear to be healthy but the milk they produce and the meat they give should not be eaten. As you can see, radiation can very easily be transferred from one point to another and ingested by someone without even their knowledge that there is a problem. The government of the Soviet Union was the owner of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. When there was a problem, the government immediately sent soldiers to surround the plant and only two days later did they evacuate the surrounding town of Pripyat, but by then it was already much too late. The effects of radiation do not take a long time to occur. In adults, it is severe but not a severe as it is in children. In children, radiation sickness can and will effect the thyroid glands. This can lead to many different kinds of cancer and most likely more than one will effect the body at once.
In adults, the effects of radiation can be cancerous, but the real issue is whether or not it will effect their DNA and thus effect the next generation. This issue is highly debated. Scientists are not sure whether or not radiation effects a persons DNA and causes mutations in the sperm and egg cells, later on effecting their children and their generation. Before the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl had a melt down, a joint US and Japanese research team set up in Hiroshima to study the effects of radiation on the survivors of the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Forty years later, they had found no evidence that there were any genetic problems in any of the survivors children. In contrast, Yuri E. Dubrova of the University of Leicester in England and his colleagues claim that they have found evidence that germline mutation rates in humans can be increased by ionizing radiation. Dubrova's team compared specific gene segments taken from the blood of people in 79 families that lived in a exposed area surrounding Chernobyl. Also they studied 105 members from unexposed families in the United Kingdom. All children in both groups were born 8 years after the melt down. "The researchers studied gene segments known as minisatellite loci, repeating patterns of roughly 5 to 45 bases, the units that make up DNA. No one knows the genetic purpose, if any, of minisatellites, but their variation from person to person enables scientists to use them as the basis of so-called genetic fingerprinting".(Dubrova )Because a child's DNA represents a combination of germline DNA from both parents, any sequence in the child that does not have either parents DNA in it, must result from a germline mutation. Dubrova's team therefore looked for minisatelite sequences in the children's DNA that did not appear in either of the parents DNA. They found twice the number of mutations in children of exposed Belarus parents as in U.K. children. "We are 99 percent sure that these are real germline mutations and they have been passed from parent to child,"(Dubrova )
Other researchers, such as James Neel of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a 40 year veteran of the Hiroshima research, are not so sure. "I am very doubtful that the findings of these investigations are due to the fallout of the Chernobyl disaster"(Neel ). Neel objects that the "doses of radiation given in their paper are very low, so their report implies a genetic sensitivity far beyond that observed in experiments with fruit flies and mice and our own observations in Japan." (Neel ) Neel also noted that controls should have come from Belarus, not the United Kingdom. Dubrova counters that finding uncontaminated people in Belarus would be next to impossible.
Radiation effects also show up in the wildlife regions. Biologist Robert J. Baker of Texas Tech University in Lublock says he found mutation rates in two species of mice that were "probably thousands of times greater" than normal.
"It was the worst civilian disaster in the history of nuclear power-and it could be repeated."(Nagorski ) To this very day, two of the four Chernobyl reactors still remain in use. It has been proven that radiation is not safe to be around, nevermind work in it everyday, so why don't they just shut the plant down? The reason is simple, they cannot afford to. Severe cracks have been reported in the concrete sarcophagus that surrounds the reactor number four. Despite this constant danger, thousands of people still live and work there every day. About 500 people have moved back to their old homes inside the effected area also called the "Zone". The Ukrainian government says that it cannot afford to close down the plant and permanently seal the sarcophagus without billions in western aid.
"Local scientists insist the deaths-and the danger- are real. Yet in and around Chernobyl, people carry on a semblance of normal life. About 12,000 people work at jobs inside the zone. The nuclear complex's 5,000 employees commute daily from Slavutych, a town just outside the perimeter." says Nikolai Lebakh, the editor of the local paper: "You can't think too much about the danger or you'll go crazy."
Some westerners suspect that officials in Ukraine and Belarus are making Chernobyl out to be a bigger problem than it is. Westerners are not eager to give away their money to other countries unless the need in really there. On the other hand, representatives of the effected countries are saying that the western countries are severely underestimating the problem trying to minimize their cash outlay as much as possible. In a summit in Moscow, the leaders of Russia and Ukraine meet with the western counter parts to discuss exactly what would have to happen to close Chernobyl completely. The Ukrainians say that it will cost more than $4 billion to decommission the two remaining reactors and to presently and properly seal off the reactors. They say the G-7 countries will have to bear almost all of that expense-or the nuclear reactors will continue to operate because they cannot afford to close them down.
There may only be a small amount of pure, factual evidence that portrays the Chernobyl accident in thousands of illnesses and deaths over the last decade, but even this small amount of information shows how terrible this accident was and how people are forced to still live in today. The figures we have may not be of totally accurate but many experts are predicting that as many as 65,000,000 people in Russia received a dose of radiation, 90,000,000 people north of the Ukraine may have been contaminated, and as many as 7,000 died immediately. For humane reasons alone western countries should contribute money to this cause so that the deaths and illnesses don't continue to pile up. A million and a half people in and around Chernobyl (including the workers who cleaned up the site after the accident) received extremely high doses of radiation, not to mention the people everyday that ingest radiation daily from the food products that were produced and still are being produced there.
Ukraine used to be one of the main producers of food products of all kinds for Europe. Now, because the soil is contaminated, it is impossible to clean up the soil enough that there is anyway someone to grow healthy food there. The food there is still grown and eaten despite the fact that 70% of it is contaminated. "Those who consume these irradiated products develop problems of esophagus and circulatory system, anemia, and other disorders; the blood becomes totally affected and the immune system completely breaks down. For a child, a small cold can be tragic."(Chernousenko )
The international nuclear community will not accept the responsibility for this accident and will not help with the clean up or safety measures that must be taken. As of today, there are 48 commercial power plants in the Soviet Union and 110 in the United States. "With one or two such explosions, it is utterly ridiculous to discuss defense measures. We shall all be killed in silent ways."(Vladimir Chernousenko)
All of the facts that I have listed above are very true. It is true that people still live and work in radioactive environments. It is true that children are dying because of unnecessary exposure to radiation. Food is grow and cattle is raised in these contaminated area's, only to be distributed for miles around. Why do these people live with these conditions? For only one reason, they are forced to live there. They cannot afford to live anywhere else, they cannot not just quit their jobs at the plant because they will have nowhere else to go. The government cannot help because it does not have the money to shut down these plants and clean up the surrounding area's, not without western help at least. If we do not help these people, it could be years, maybe even decades before anything is resolved. The people living in these areas today are not the only ones effected, but also their unborn children will be effected as well. Is that really fair to these children, to be brought into a world and die only a few months later from a simple illness as a cold. Radiation will always be in the soil around Chernobyl, but we can prevent it from being in the people and children.